Response to: ‘It’s Time to Stop Losing the War on Terror’

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The article entitled ‘It’s time to stop losing the War on Terror’ equates to someone writing in the early 1970’s that ‘we need to stop losing the Vietnam War’ and goes on to suggest everything that had already been done before but offering it as a new solution.

The Soviet Union did not lose the war because ‘politicians’ lost it. The Generals in the conflict were incredibly willing to use the conventional Soviet method of overwhelming force to sustain the Marxist government of Afghanistan. However, a lot of them were also extremely corrupt so the war was unsustainable. The Soviets constantly and massively bombed the insurgency with planes and helicopters; there was little holding back. During the Vietnam War, popular discontent forced politicians to oppose the conflict and pressure the Johnson and Nixon administration to seek a quick end. In the Soviet Union dictatorship, most didn’t even understand the scale of the fighting and most politicians were committed to upholding communist governments throughout the world. They didn’t hold back in combat, but since the drain on resources was crippling the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was forced to withdraw. He didn’t take them out solely because the public didn’t like it.

Your way of thinking is dangerous but somehow you think it’s a new concept that ‘we need to change our approach specifically regarding borders’. When in the last 15 years has the West respected any country’s sovereignty in the War on Terror? Whether it be invading Iraq because it had ‘ties’ to Al-Qaeda, invading Afghanistan, drone strikes in Yemen or Somalia, or massive air strikes in Syria and Libya. We have been the direct cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and we often have fuelled the rise of jihadist groups. The whole situation with ISIS directly stems from the invasion and occupation of Iraq but because you ‘personally dislike’ state sovereignty I guess you’re fine with this? Again, Libya is carved up by various Jihadist groups because we toppled a foreign government by any means necessary but again, to you, this is perfectly acceptable?

Credit: Associated Press

You go on to say ‘to win a war on terror we must inspire terror in our enemies’, again this is the type of thinking that caused this whole situation and its amazing you don’t realise it has already occurred. Do you not think the use of White Phosphorus in Fallujah in 2004 (which many have said was a war crime), or Drone striking weddings in Yemen inspires fear throughout the Middle East? Do you not think places like Abu Ghraib are burnt into the memory of all who see the US/UK as the enemy? We have constantly and consistently terrorised the Middle East since 9/11 and, yes, we also do not respect any borders.

The war on terror is not a ‘total war’ as you put it and neither is it the first total war. The total war that was World War Two, and to a lesser extent World War One, saw the Allies united to defeat the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy; all countries with huge armies bent on conquering their share of the world. We had a total war to stop this from occurring. The War on Terror is completely different. All these groups you label ‘terrorists’ have their own reasons for existing and guess what? Its not just because they just hate America and the West. Lets take the Islamic State as one example. When we occupied Iraq, we overthrew Sadam and the leadership. We dissolved the armed forces and banned every Sunni Muslim from re-joining. We installed a massively pro-Shia government who favoured their own sect, causing many of the Sunni population to feel oppressed. This is what caused groups like the Islamic State to feel aggrieved and rise up. This is why they attack the West. True they want a worldwide caliphate but they didn’t just appear out of nowhere. This is just one group. There is also Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Nusra, Al-Qaeda and insurgent groups like the Taliban.

Yes, they are mostly Muslim fundamentalists who generally have disdain for the West but they are not a monolithic entity who all exist just to terrorise western civilisation. They all have their own aims, objectives and backgrounds. You cannot fight a total war against groups who all have differing and complicated goals, and agendas. Unlike Nazi Germany, the Taliban do not want to conquer the world, unlike the Empire of Japan Hamas they do not want to massively expand their territory. Groups like these have nationalist ambitions focused in their own country – why would you fight a total war against foreign nationalist groups? Other groups like Al-Qaeda are so small militarily you cannot even fight a conventional war against them. The age of massive tank, plane and infantry engagements is over, the age of unending insurgency is here to stay because it thrives from the West having a total war mindset.

It is pretty rich that you feel it is ‘scandalous to stand on the sidelines and allow someone to commit an atrocity’ and that ‘we ignore not just one but hundreds of atrocities.’ I think you are projecting here, because what you have done the entire article is that very thing; you have ignored the atrocities that we have carried out in our War on Terror: whether it is bombing a hospital in Afghanistan for hours non-stop, raping and torturing prisoners at Abu Graib, the use of White Phosphorus, or the fact that we send ‘suspected’ terrorists to Guantanamo Bay. This area in Cuba is technically not owned by any country so no laws apply there. The US can do whatever they like to their prisoners and they have carried out constant torture of its inmates. On many occasions they are innocent but still suffer here for years. These are atrocities. And they are just as bad as any beheading we see covered more often on the news.

Your whole article fails to recognise the history of the Middle East, the War on Terror or just war in general. You offer no solutions apart from advocating extremely harsh and short-sighted military answers which have already been carried out before. If you honestly think we have respected the borders of countries in our fight against Islamic extremism you are completely mistaken. Groups like Al-Qaeda will never be defeated militarily. History tells us this. The Viet Cong couldn’t be defeated in the face of massive bombing campaigns, the Mujahideen couldn’t be defeat when faced with overwhelming Soviet fire power, the Taliban could not be eradicated when faced with America and her allies, and now ISIS will not fully go away no matter how much military force we use. You advocacy for ground troops completely ignores the lessons of Vietnam, Afghanistan (in the 1980s and the 2000s) and Iraq. This is why there is a ‘fear of committing ground forces’ because they become bogged down in an unwinnable conflict. If you were in a western government or leadership position during the early part of the War in Terror you would certainly be one of the people who created the disaster we now face today.

Much like the War on Drugs, the War on Terror has mostly been a complete failure and it is caused by similar strategies that you have advocated here. The Middle East doesn’t need more foreign ground troops and indiscriminate bombing to achieve peace. It needs people to come together and discuss their grievances and create nations that work for the needs of all their people. The War on Terror will never be won by toppling more foreign governments and replacing them with corrupt puppet regimes. The sooner people like you realise this the better.

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Second year History Students-articles focus on international issues and politics.

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